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Businesses React to Sick Leave Ordinance

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EUGENE, Ore. — Some businesses in Eugene say they’re ready to make adjustments, now that the city has passed a controversial sick leave ordinance.

Monday night’s vote comes after months of talks and comments from a divided community.

The ordinance requires employers to provide workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Employees say it’s necessary so they don’t have to choose between paying the bills or going to work sick.

But, some businesses say the ordinance goes over their heads, and business will suffer.

Mayor Kitty Piercy says both sides have had a voice on the matter.

“We had a task force that had people who were for it and people who were against it and a lot of businesses. And they all got to bring up all their issues because that was the whole purpose of the task force, tell us all the things you’re concerned about,” said Mayor Kitty Piercy.

Lane County recently passed its own ordinance exempting county employees from the ordinance.

Monday night the council amended its version, exempting governmental agencies including Lane County, potentially avoiding a legal battle.

Local businesses will have about a year to make adjustments before the ordinance takes effect. The law won’t go into effect until July 2015.

Several local business owners told KEZI 9 News that this could hurt them and they would have preferred the ordinance didn’t pass.

Tech company Concentric Sky says the new law could pose a challenge.

The company is known for innovation, creativity, and its presence for technology solutions.

“We have about 45 employees currently,” said Lisa Bruckner, Concentric Sky Chief Operating Officer.

Bruckner says, as an employer, their goal is to create an interesting, secure and flexible work environment.

“Most of them are hourly so they can work the hours they want, and we try to work around their personal lives because we think having a good personal life is part of being a happy employee,” Bruckner said.

They offer health insurance packages along with paid time off. And with the new sick leave ordinance passed in Eugene, Concentric Sky employees–and at businesses in town–will get one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The total amount of sick time caps out at 40 hours.

“It’s kind of a two-sided coin. On the one side, we’re happy that employees have the opportunity to be eligible for more benefits, and we like to give employees as many benefits as possible,” Bruckner said.

But like several local business owners, there are questions and concerns.

“On the other side of the coin, where does the money come from to pay for the benefits? Payroll and fringe benefits are usually one of the largest expenses businesses have to cover,” Bruckner said.

Bruckner and several business owners say they’re interested to see how this law plays out.

“It’s an easy thing to pass, but the long-term repercussions and effects that it has are not often seen until later. I’m hopeful that it doesn’t negatively affect too many small businesses, meaning they have to raise their rates in order to accommodate this law, which could harm the economy potentially,” Bruckner said.

Other business owners told KEZI 9 News they’re concerned about how they’ll get the money to cover paid sick leave and if they’d have to hire less people because of it.

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